Mobile Phone – Product Life Cycle

When did you get your first mobile phone?

I got mine in 1999, which it turns out was the year of most rapid growth in mobile phone use.

Mobile phone subscriptions in UK. Source: World Bank data

Mobile phones looks to have the classic product life cycle of introduction, growth and maturity.


A long slow period of introduction from 1985 to 1997. I remember in this time that a mobile phone was considered to be the preserve of fancy ‘yuppies’ (Young upwardly mobile people) e.g. city financiers.

When I was at university in the 1990s, if you wanted to meet up with a friend, you would generally go and knock on their door. There was no mobile phones, (no one ever answered the  telephone shared by the whole corridor) There was definitely no facebook and very few had email. If you did have email, you probably only checked it in the computer room once a day. (Goodness me, this is making me feel nostalgic for the good old days!)


In the years 1998 to 2000, there is suddenly an explosion as the rate of mobile phone subscription increases from 25% to 74%. Mobile phones went from being a minority user group, to an essential of life.

mobiles phone
As mobile phone use increased, mobiles themselves decreased in size (until the smart phones reversed trend) Photo Rohdesign CC licence

I got my first mobile phone in 1999, a Virgin pay as you go. A Nice chunky phone with 2 colour display. I bought it somewhat reluctantly – it took quite a while to change my perspective of mobile phones away from the old Yuppie device.

Saturation  / Maturity.

In the late 2000s, mobile phones reached to even the most technophobic elements of society. (e.g. my mother). It was a bad day, when she learnt how to send text messages saying ‘what are you up to?’

By 2009, it looks like we have reached the peak and market saturation, with a subscription rate constant at 130%

Possible Decline in Mobile Phone Market?

Is it possible that we could see a decline in mobile phone subscriptions, as in some product life cycles?

I think it is unlikely. In a way we have already seen a decline of the old traditional mobile phone – which has been replaced by the new smart phone. Interestingly, the Smart phone is causing a decline in digital camera sales. – As people don’t need both a camera and a phone. But, because the mobile phone has evolved, it is hard to see a decline in mobile phone subscriptions for the foreseeable future.

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